Benefits of urban and peri-urban forestry

Goods and services associated with UPF offers great opportunities for cities as they can help mitigate some of the impacts and social consequences of urbanization.

These benefits can contribute to many areas, and as such they can be roughly divided into economic, environmental and sociocultural categories. Extensive research and experience provide evidence of these benefits thus demonstrating that cities that take steps to invest in a green vision are rewarded. In fact, tree resources can provide, throughout their lifetime, a benefit package worth two to three times more than the cost of establishment and care.

As elaborated more fully below, a city with a sufficient and quality green infrastructure becomes more resilient, sustainable and equitable in terms of nutrition and food security, poverty alleviation, livelihood improvement, climate change mitigation and adaptation, disaster risk reduction and ecosystems conservation.

Economic and livelihood benefits

UPF can contribute to food and nutrition security

Particularly in developing countries, planting trees in and around cities can help fight hunger and malnutrition, as trees are a source of food, fuel and non-wood products that can be either directly consumed/used or sold:

  • Growing trees which produce food (fruits, nuts, leaves, etc.) provide an easy accessible nutritious food for the dwellers.
  • Wood residues can be used as wood energy for cooking and/or heating.
  • Leaves, and other parts of trees, can serve as forage for livestock.
  • By capturing, filtering and storing water, urban and peri-urban forests play an important role in providing drinking water. This contribution is even more important in drylands.

©FAO/Marco Longari


©FAO/Giuseppe Bizzarri

UPF can alleviate poverty

Besides providing food products and woodfuel that can be use directly, urban and peri-urban green resources have monetary values as well as numerous direct or indirect economic impacts, both in developing countries and in the developed countries:

  • Green resources create job opportunities, as forestry has a strong potential for employment generation (usually high labour-capital ratio) and supports additional jobs through multiplier effects. Employment sectors include nursery industry, gardening and food production, furniture industry, street vending and selling, driving and transport, etc.
  • The field of UPF itself employs a diversified workforce in all level in order to manage the city green infrastructure, from little qualification required job to expert position.
  • The aesthetic benefits of green infrastructure increases surrounding land and property values, and attracts tourists and businesses to the city. This in turn adds to the city's tax base allowing for increased revenues.
  • By providing shade, trees have a cooling effect on structures, yielding cooling energy savings and prolonging the life of streets and other grey infrastructure.

UPF can increase cities’ resilience to severe weather events

Trees in cities help mitigating the effects of severe weather events, providing security and sustainable livelihood for people:

  • Trees reduce the risk of landslides by reinforcing soil with roots, and shield buildings and roads from strong winds and flooding.
  • Trees also reduce storm water runoff by intercepting and temporarily storing rainfall on leaves and branches.
  • In drylands, urban trees and forest can be used to fight desertification and protect cities against wind and sand storms.

Environmental benefits

UPF supports climate change mitigation and adaptation

  • As cities are major emitters of greenhouse gases and trees sequester carbon dioxide, UPF can contribute to climate change mitigation strategies.
  • Green resources can also help to adapt to climate change by providing shade, by decreasing the “heat island effect” and by cooling the urban environment.

©FAO/J. Micaud


©FAO/J. Micaud

UPF can help protect green and blue resources

  • Institutionalising and regulating UPF, by implementing and enforcing policies, can help protect land and green resources from illegal taking, overexploitation and encroachment, especially in developing countries where uncontrolled migration towards cities, poverty and lack of control contribute to the mismanagement and degradation of these resources.
  • Trees, green areas and forest in and around cities can contribute to protect watersheds and thus help protect drinking water sources by combatting erosion and filtering pollution. A well designed green infrastructure can also contribute to the treatment of waste water.

UPF plays an important role in local biodiversity conservation

Green corridors and urban parks are crucial in conserving biodiversity of the natural areas surrounding the city and in reducing the impact of urbanization on the natural landscape.

Social and cultural benefits

UPF creates recreational, cultural and social opportunities

Urban and peri-urban green resources offer healthy environments for sport, recreation, art, education and culture:

  • Green areas and parks have a high recreational value that can improve neighbourhoods and promotes physical activity.
  • Children growing in an environment with adequate playgrounds and green areas are given equal development opportunities regardless of their social or economic classes, while green open spaces can promote a more active lifestyle for more senior adults.
  • Green areas can be used for awareness raising and education about nature, climate change, arboriculture, etc.

©FAO/Pius Ekpei


©FAO/Joan Manuel Baliellas

UPF has a positive impact on physical and mental health

Green resources help provide a healthy environment for people living in the city. In fact, by cooling the environment, blocking harmful ultraviolet rays, reducing air pollution, absorbing and refracting or dissipating noise, and providing green areas and parks, urban and peri-urban green resources improve physical and psychological well-being of citizens and help in reducing a number of conditions including stress, obesity and cardiovascular diseases.

last updated:  Monday, July 28, 2014